Frequently Asked Questions

Got a question about dyslexia? The answer is probably here.

What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological (sound system) component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede the growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.

Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling. Characteristic features of dyslexia are difficulties in the awareness of individual sounds in a word (ability to identify and manipulate separate sounds within words), verbal memory and verbal processing speed.

Dyslexia occurs across the range of intellectual abilities. It is best thought of as a continuum, not a distinct category, and there are no clear cut-off points. Co-occurring difficulties may be seen in aspects of language, motor co-ordination, mental calculation, concentration and personal organisation, but these are not, by themselves, markers of dyslexia. A good indication of the severity and persistence of dyslexic difficulties can be gained by examining how the individual responds or has responded to well founded intervention.

This is a working definition of dyslexia provided by Sir Jim Rose in 2009. This definition is now used by many major dyslexia organisations worldwide (Pavey et al., 2013).

How is Dyslexia assessed & diagnosed?

Answer: As dyslexia is a difficulty with reading and spelling skills that arises from weaknesses in awareness of the speech sound system of language, verbal memory and verbal processing speed, assessment involves looking at all these areas. The assessor will usually look at the following skills:

  • ability to identify individual sounds in word, blend sounds to create words and break words into individual speech sounds (known as phonemic awareness);
  • reading of common words;
  • decoding of unfamiliar words (made up words);
  • accuracy and fluency of text reading;
  • reading comprehension;
  • spelling;
  • working memory;
  • verbal processing speed.

My child is below the expected level at school with reading / spelling / learning. What should I do?

Speak to your child’s school and gauge their opinions on how your child is progressing. See if they have put any support in place to help your child’s reading and spelling skills. Many parents are told by the school to wait and see if the student progresses, give them some time. This is not recommended as it is vitally important to intervene as early as possible to help support your child’s reading and spelling and ensure they do not fall behind their classmates. Once a gap forms between a child and their classmates it becomes increasingly more difficult to close that gap, which leads to school anxiety and feelings of failure. If you are concerned that your child is not making appropriate progress and the school is not able to provide any answers or support, the best thing to do is look for a professional outside of school who can provide that support, such as a special education teacher or a speech pathologist. See here for questions you can ask when looking for the right professional to support your child.

Check out our ‘Where to go’ Page  

Where do I go for a comprehensive assessment for Dyslexia?

If you have concerns about your child’s progress with reading, spelling or writing there are a number of professionals you could seek advice from. It is always essential to ensure that the person you speak to:

a) has an in-depth understanding of dyslexia & other learning differences;
b) assesses all key areas (see this guide from the IDA: https://dyslexiaida.org/testing-and- evaluation/); and
c) provides detailed recommendations for both home and school (and/or ongoing support if needed).
Dyslexia can be identified by a number of professionals such as Psychologists, Speech Pathologists or Special Education teachers.

Check out our page Where to Go for further information 

Will my child grow out of Dyslexia?

Students don’t grow out of dyslexia. As dyslexia is related to how the brain processes information, this won’t change over time. A student with dyslexia can learn to be a successful reader if taught using the right approaches and given the right support, though often their reading is not as automatic and fluent as those without dyslexia. Dyslexics also often have ongoing spelling difficulties, and working memory often remains an area of weakness.

Is it true that dyslexics reverse letters and words, and letters move about on the page?

Dyslexia is related to language processing and is not a visual disorder, therefore words moving around a page is not a symptom of dyslexia. At times the fatigue and anxiety associated with reading for dyslexic students may cause the words to appear to be moving, but it is not a symptom of dyslexia. Handler et. al (2011) state that “reversals of letters or words and mirror writing occur normally in early readers and writers. Children with dyslexia are not unusually prone to reversals. Although they do occur, reversal of letters or words, or mirror writing, is not included in the definition of dyslexia.” See the full article here

Can coloured lenses or paper help?

In short no. Any link between dyslexia and vision is a well marketed myth.

Research studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals have consistently found there is no evidence that coloured lenses alleviate or improve reading difficulties (McIntosh & Ritchie, 2012). See here for a statement by Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO). What often happens when students find improvements in reading following the use of coloured lenses or paper is known as a placebo effect, whereby belief that a product will help is enough to give the user the impression of improvement.

Check out our Fact Sheet on Dyslexia and the Vision Myth on our Resources page 

What other areas of learning can Dyslexia affect besides reading and writing?

Other skills that may be affected for students with dyslexia include:

  • navigation and sense of direction;
  • spatial concepts like telling left from right;
  • remembering words, phrases, names and directions;
  • telling the time and sticking to a schedule.

See these links for more information on how dyslexia impacts other areas of learning:

How Dyslexia Affects the Curriculum
Executive Functioning

Check out our Resources page for more information

Is Dyslexia genetic?

Dyslexia is highly genetic. “Behaviour geneticists have shown that there is as much as a 50% probability of a boy becoming dyslexic if his father is dyslexic (about 40% if his mother is affected), and a somewhat lower probability of a girl developing dyslexia.” ( Snowling, M. J. (2001). Developmental dyslexia. Paediatrics and Child Health, 11(1), 10-13.)

How do I support and advocate for my child with Dyslexia?

Some things you can do to help support your child:

  • Find ways to help your child connect letters to sounds in everyday activities.
  • Discover software, apps and tools to help with reading.
  • Look into where to find free audiobooks for your child.
  • See what your child can say to self-advocate in grade school and middle school.
  • Learn how to be an advocate for your child at school.
  • Discover your child’s strengths.

As an advocate you may do the following:

  • Raise awareness about dyslexia;
  • Educate those involved with your child’s education about dyslexia and interventions for
    dyslexia;
  • Be involved in the writing of goals for IEP (Individual Education Plan);
  • Provide resources to help those involved understand dyslexia.

For more information about supporting and advocating for you child see these links:
10 Ways to Be an Effective Advocate for Your Child at School
Dyslexia Advocate by Kellie Sandman-Hurley
The Top 10 ways to advocate for a child with dyslexia – podcast

Visit our Resources page for more helpful advice and downloadable fact sheets

What are the signs of dyslexia?

This information is from © Sally Shaywitz, Overcoming Dyslexia, and her site The Yale Centre for Dyslexia and Creativity

The Preschool Years

  • Trouble learning common nursery rhymes, such as “Jack and Jill”
  • Difficulty learning (and remembering) the names of letters in the alphabet
  • Seems unable to recognize letters in his/her own name
  • Mispronounces familiar words; persistent “baby talk”
  • Doesn’t recognize rhyming patterns like catbatrat
  • A family history of reading and/or spelling difficulties (dyslexia often runs in families)

Kindergarten & First Grade Difficulties

  • Reading errors that show no connection to the sounds of the letters on the page—will say “puppy” instead of the written word “dog” on an illustrated page with a picture of a dog
  • Does not understand that words come apart
  • Complains about how hard reading is; “disappears” when it is time to read
  • A history of reading problems in parents or siblings
  • Cannot sound out even simple words like catmapnap
  • Does not associate letters with sounds, such as the letter b with the “b” sound

Second Grade through High School

Reading

  • Very slow in acquiring reading skills. Reading is slow and awkward
  • Trouble reading unfamiliar words, often making wild guesses because he cannot sound out the word
  • Doesn’t seem to have a strategy for reading new words
  • Avoids reading out loud

Speaking

  • Searches for a specific word and ends up using vague language, such as “stuff” or “thing,” without naming the object
  • Pauses, hesitates, and/or uses lots of “um’s” when speaking
  • Confuses words that sound alike, such as saying “tornado” for “volcano,” substituting “lotion” for “ocean”
  • Mispronunciation of long, unfamiliar or complicated words
  • Seems to need extra time to respond to questions

School and Life

  • Trouble remembering dates, names, telephone numbers, random lists
  • Struggles to finish tests on time
  • Extreme difficulty learning a foreign language
  • Poor spelling
  • Messy handwriting
  • Low self-esteem that may not be immediately visible

Young Adults & Adults

Reading

  • A childhood history of reading and spelling difficulties
  • While reading skills have developed over time, reading still requires great effort and is done at a slow pace
  • Rarely reads for pleasure
  • Slow reading of most materials—books, manuals, subtitles in films
  • Avoids reading aloud

Speaking

  • Earlier oral language difficulties persist, including a lack of fluency and glibness; frequent use of “um’s” and imprecise language; and general anxiety when speaking
  • Often pronounces the names of people and places incorrectly; trips over parts of words
  • Difficulty remembering names of people and places; confuses names that sound alike
  • Struggles to retrieve words; frequently has “It was on the tip of my tongue” moments
  • Rarely has a fast response in conversations; struggles when put on the spot
  • Spoken vocabulary is smaller than listening vocabulary
  • Avoids saying words that might be mispronounced

See here for the link to the full article from Sally Shaywitz and her website and here for a list of the signs of dyslexia from the preschool years through to adulthood.

What is Systematic Synthetic Phonics and why is it recommended for helping a student with Dyslexia?

The intervention that research has most consistently found to be effective in helping a student with Dyslexia is Systematic Synthetic Phonics or SSP.

Systematic which means there is a set way of teaching the sounds in words. Starting at base sounds and moving through to more difficult sounds.

Synthetic refers to the blending of sounds together to make words.

Phonics is the alphabetic code of the English language. It is the relationship between speech sounds and how we represent them in writing using letters of the alphabet.

Phonics should be taught systematically and explicitly to automaticity and mastery. This is particularly import for children with Dyslexia who will often need a much more intensive approach to the teaching of phonics.

Watch this great clip from our friends at  https://www.fivefromfive.org.au/

 

See these links for more information:
Structured Synthetic Phonics…A Guide for Teachers and Parents
Selecting a successful intervention program
Scientific Evidence for Effective Teaching of Reading

What are the strengths relating to Dyslexia?

People with dyslexia have a number of strengths that are associated with the way they think. Many people with dyslexia have become very successful business people, such as Richard Branson and Steve Jobs. Many have gone on to be successful in the arts due to their creative abilities, such as Andy Warhol and Steven Spielberg. Some of the strengths that are often related to dyslexia can include:

  • Seeing the bigger picture;
  • Global visual processing, such as identifying and memorising complex images;
  • Identifying and recognising patterns;
  • Spatial knowledge and awareness;
  • Strategic and creative thinking;
  • Creativity;
  • Thinking outside the box.

(adapted from Nessy: 9 Strengths of Dyslexia)

See these links for more information:
Strengths of Dyslexia
Identifying the Strengths of Dyslexia

Why do we need the Year One Phonics Check

 

With thanks to Five from Five for this excellent explanation

Is Dyslexia covered by Australian Law and What are the requirements that schools must adhere to?

Dyslexia and the law in Australia

Educational Implications of legislation

Written by Belinda Dekker of Dyslexia Support Australia  https://dekkerdyslexia.wordpress.com/

Disability Discrimination Act 1992

“disability, in relation to a person, means:

(f)  a disorder or malfunction that results in the person learning differently from a person without the disorder or malfunction;”

“DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION ACT 1992 – SECT 4 Interpretation.” DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION ACT 1992 – SECT 4 Interpretation. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.

 

“The definition of ‘disability’ in the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) is sufficiently broad as to include dyslexia within the meaning of that term as outlined in recommendation 1.”

The Australian Government response to recommendations of the Dyslexia Working Party Report ‘ Web. 20 Feb. 2017

 

Disability Standards for Education act 2005

“Perhaps the most significant feature of the Education Standards is the introduction of a positive obligation on education providers to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to accommodate the needs of students with disabilities.[355] The Standards also impose an obligation on education providers to consult with affected students or their associates in relation to such adjustments.[356]”

Admin. “Federal Discrimination Law: Chapter 5 The Disability Discrimination Act.” Admin. 16 Dec. 2012. Web. 10 Feb. 2017.

Anti-discrimination law covers a wide range of disabilities and health problems. These include the following:

a mental illness or psychiatric disability, such as anxiety, depression, (may be caused by dyslexia)

a behavioural disorder such as ADHD or Asperger’s Syndrome; (comorbidity with dyslexia)

a learning or cognitive disability such as dyslexia;”

“Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW.” Disability Discrimination. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.

“Educators must offer a person with a disability the same educational opportunities as everyone else. This means that if a person with a disability meets the necessary entry requirements of a school or college he or she should have just as much chance to study there as anyone else.”

Admin. “D.D.A. Guide: Getting an Education.” Admin. 13 Dec. 2012. Web. 10 Feb. 2017.

Students with Disability Australian curriculum

“The purpose of this advice is to support teachers in meeting their obligations under the Disability Standards for Education 2005 (Commonwealth of Australia, 2006) (the Standards) to ensure that all students with disability are able to participate in the Australian Curriculum on the same basis as their peers through rigorous, meaningful and dignified learning programs. “”Student Diversity.” Student Diversity – Students with Disability – The Australian Curriculum V8.3. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.

What does ‘on the same basis’ mean?

“‘On the same basis’ means that a student with disability should have access to the same opportunities and choices in their education that are available to a student without disability.

‘On the same basis’ means that students with disability are entitled to rigorous, relevant and engaging learning opportunities drawn from the Australian Curriculum and set in age-equivalent learning contexts.

‘On the same basis’ does not mean that every student has the same experience but that they are entitled to equitable opportunities and choices to access age-equivalent content from all learning areas of the Australian Curriculum.

‘On the same basis’ means that while all students will access age-equivalent content, the way in which they access it and the focus of their learning may vary according to their individual learning needs, strengths, goals and interests.”

“Student Diversity.” Student Diversity – Students with Disability – The Australian Curriculum V8.3. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.

What is ‘consultation’ and who is involved?

“‘Consultation’ can involve the principal, class teachers and support teachers, and can include the professional expertise of therapists and other community service providers.

‘Consultation’ should take place regularly and changes made to adjustments if needed.

‘Consultation’ should continue for the whole time that the student is involved with the school.

“Student Diversity.” Student Diversity – Students with Disability – The Australian Curriculum V8.3. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.

What are ‘reasonable adjustments’?

“An ‘adjustment’ is a measure or action taken to assist a student with disability to participate in education and training on the same basis as other students.

The process of consultation outlined above is an integral part of ensuring that schools are meeting their obligations in relation to ‘reasonable adjustments’.”

“Student Diversity.” Student Diversity – Students with Disability – The Australian Curriculum V8.3. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.

This information is available as a downloadable Fact Sheet on our Resources page. 

Disclaimer

This information is presented by Belinda Dekker for the purpose of disseminating information to the public. Belinda Dekker does not make any representation or warranty about the accuracy, reliability, currency or completeness of any material contained in this fact sheet or on any linked site.

While I make every effort to ensure that the material on this guide is accurate and up-to-date, you should exercise your own independent skill and judgement before you rely on it.  This guide is not a substitute for independent professional advice and users should obtain any appropriate professional advice relevant to their particular circumstances. Links to other websites are inserted for convenience and do not constitute endorsement of material at those sites, or any associated organisation, product or service.

In some cases the material in this guide may incorporate or summarise views, standards or recommendations of third parties or comprise material contributed by third parties (‘third party material’). Such third party material is assembled in good faith, but does not necessarily reflect the considered views of Belinda Dekker, or indicate a commitment to a particular course of action. Belinda Dekker makes no representation or warranty about  the accuracy, reliability, currency or completeness of any third party information.

Belinda Dekker is not liable for any loss resulting from any action taken or reliance made by you on any information or material in this guide (including, without limitation, third party information)

This information is available as a downloadable Fact Sheet on our Resources page. 

Do Dyslexics also have problems with Maths? And what is Dyscalculia?

By Belinda Dekker of Dyslexia Support Australia https://dekkerdyslexia.wordpress.com/

Mathematics can often be an area of difficulty for people with dyslexia. Mathematics has its own distinct language and symbols. Mathematics also has a heavy reliance on processing speed and working memory. There is also a high incidence of dyscalculia as a comorbidity with dyslexia.

Mathematics anxiety is a well researched area and can have a significant impact on kids struggling to cope with the extra demands learning difficulties place upon them everyday in school. Mathematics, as taught in the curriculum, gives children the belief that they are either right or wrong and leaves little room for creativity.

The fundamental principles of the remediation of mathematical difficulties are;

  • Teach concepts and understanding in a hands on way.
  • Mastery of basic facts and concepts is essential.
  • Focus on students area of weakness.
  • Variety and repetition until automaticity of essentials.
  • Play games and make relevant to life.

Specific Learning Disorder Mathematics

5. Difficulties mastering number sense, number facts, or calculation (e.g. Has poor understanding of numbers, their magnitude, and relationships.” Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5. Washington: American Psychiatric, 2014. Print.

“There is a high co-morbidity rate for children with developmental dyscalculia and dyslexia. Between 60% and 100% of dyslexics have difficulty with certain aspects of mathematics (Miles, 1993 & Joffe, 1990).”“Dyslexia and Mathematics.” Dyslexia Help at the University of Michigan. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.

“Dyscalculia is a condition that affects the ability to acquire arithmetical skills. Dyscalculic learners may have difficulty understanding simple number concepts, lack an intuitive grasp of numbers, and have problems learning number facts and procedures. Even if they produce a correct answer or use a correct method, they may do so mechanically and without confidence. Dyscalculia and dyslexia occur both independently of each other and together. The strategies for dealing with dyscalculia will be fundamentally the same whether or not the learner is also dyslexic.” “Dyscalculia.” British Dyslexia Association. Web. 10 Feb. 2017.

“One of the biggest problems for learners who are dyscalculic and/or who have trouble in learning mathematics is retaining facts and procedures in long term memory.The best way of addressing these problems is to develop understanding of those maths facts and procedures. ” Chinn, Steve. “The ‘Maths Explained’ Video Tutorials.”   Steve Chinn   |   About Me  . Web. 31 Mar. 2017.

 

Working Memory
  • Difficulty learning and recalling number facts, formulae and vocabulary.
  • Difficulty with process and multiple steps.
  • Responds poorly to wrote memorisation of basic facts like timetables
  • Teach concepts with the use of manipulatives.
  • Allow use of memory aides so student can keep up with class concepts that rely on recall of arithmetical facts.
  • Break into steps
  • Allow student to develop and use own strategies.
  • Provide scrap paper for working.
  • Allow mastery before moving on to next concept.
Language
  • Confuses maths language.
  • Difficulty with word problems.
  • Difficulty reading information from tables and graphs.
  • use maths dictionaries for terminology.
  • Enlarge graphs, tables and drawings.
  • Highlight maths signs
Processing speed
  • Increases anxiety.
  • Reduces output.
  • Allow extra time
  • Focus on accuracy and understanding not amount
Anxiety
  • Impacts working memory and processing speed.
  • Focus on mastery of basis concepts and facts.
  • Enable success through appropriate level of questions.
  • Use maths games.

Sources of further information

Steve Chinn and Ronit Bird produce outstanding resources and books for math difficulties.

http://www.stevechinn.co.uk/maths-explained.html

http://www.ronitbird.com/

Also available as a Downloadable Fact Sheet in our Resources Section

Disclaimer:
This information is presented by Belinda Dekker for the purpose of disseminating information to the public. Belinda Dekker does not make any representation or warranty about the accuracy, reliability, currency or completeness of any material contained in this fact sheet or on any linked site.
While I make every effort to ensure that the material on this guide is accurate and up-to-date, you should exercise your own independent skill and judgement before you rely on it.  This guide is not a substitute for independent professional advice and users should obtain any appropriate professional advice relevant to their particular circumstances. Links to other websites are inserted for convenience and do not constitute endorsement of material at those sites, or any associated organisation, product or service.
In some cases the material in this guide may incorporate or summarise views, standards or recommendations of third parties or comprise material contributed by third parties (‘third party material’). Such third party material is assembled in good faith, but does not necessarily reflect the considered views of Belinda Dekker, or indicate a commitment to a particular course of action. Belinda Dekker makes no representation or warranty about  the accuracy, reliability, currency or completeness of any third party information.
Belinda Dekker is not liable for any loss resulting from any action taken or reliance made by you on any information or material in this guide (including, without limitation, third party information)

Also available as a Downloadable Fact Sheet in our Resources Section

Dyscalculia Fact Sheet from Understood.org 

What is Dysgraphia?

AUSPELD provides the following information on Dysgraphia :

Dysgraphia is a specific learning disability that often remains undiagnosed. It is a persistent difficulty with written expression, handwriting and/or spelling that may occur in isolation but, more often, occurs in conjunction with dyslexia.

Dysgraphia can be defined as:
… a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterised by difficulties with accurate and / or fluent written expression and by poor spelling and handwriting skills. These ongoing delays in writing are often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction.

It is commonly recognised that dysgraphia can be separated into two subtypes: Motor-based dysgraphia and Language-based dysgraphia. Both subtypes of dysgraphia are likely to have a detrimental impact on the writing process and both will result in the child facing a number of writing challenges.

Motor-based dysgraphia can be viewed as difficulties with the mechanical aspects of writing. Often children with this type of dysgraphia are able to structure and sequence their ideas effectively, but struggle with the manual aspects of handwriting. This results in writing becoming a tiring, laborious and sometimes painful process for the student.

Language-based dysgraphia is more consistent with delays in processing and sequencing ideas in writing.

The content of the writing is well below the level expected, despite children being able to present their ideas clearly and concisely orally. There may be no difficulty in the handwriting aspect of writing in a child with Language-based dysgraphia.

Students with dysgraphia often have to work much harder and longer to produce written work to the same standard as an individual with typically developing writing skills.

For further information and more details about the characteristics throughout the school years please visit the ULD for Parents site:

http://uldforparents.com/contents/what-do-we-know-about-types-of-learning-disabilities/dysgraphia